Press release

Time for Denmark to Acknowledge Its Role in CIA’s al-Awlaki Killing

April 30, 2014
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NEW YORK—The Open Society Justice Initiative has filed a series of Freedom of Information requests with the Danish government regarding its role in the death of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen killed in a drone strike by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in 2011.

The requests for information and documents related to al-Awlaki’s tracking and killing were filed this week on behalf of the Justice Initiative by Gunnar Homann, a Copenhagen-based lawyer, under the provisions of Denmark’s Public Records Act and Public Administration Act.

They have been filed with the Danish Ministry of Justice, the Danish Security and Intelligence Service, the Ministry of Defence, the Danish Defence Intelligence Service, and the Danish Independent Police Complaints Authority.

Al-Awlaki was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen on September 30, 2011. Since October 2012, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten has reported that Denmark knew of and was involved in the operation, citing sources including Morten Storm, a double agent tasked by Danish intelligence with tracking al-Awlaki.

This involvement was reportedly well underway by January 2010, when it was publicly reported that the U.S. had placed al-Awlaki on a “kill list.” It continued after that date despite the operation’s evident intention. 

Despite the significant public interest in the issue, the Danish government has repeatedly refused to disclose the truth about its involvement in al-Awlaki’s killing. Danish officials have refused to respond specifically and meaningfully to numerous questions posed on this subject by the legal affairs committee of Denmark’s parliament. 

Amrit Singh, senior legal officer for national security and counterterrorism at the Open Society Justice Initiative, said: “It is time for the Danish government to disclose the full truth about its involvement in the al-Awlaki operation. If the Danish people are participants in a limitless global war, they have a right to know about it.”

In February 2014, the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning the use of drone strikes, saying that strikes “outside a declared war by a state on the territory of another state without the consent of the latter or of the UN Security Council” are “a violation of international law.” The resolution further called on members of the European Union to “oppose and ban the practice of extrajudicial targeted killings.”

The United States has conducted covert lethal drone operations in countries such as Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. Human rights groups have criticized the program for its lack of transparency and accountability.

On April 21, 2014, a U.S. Appeals Court required the U.S. Department of Justice to publicly release part of a previously classified legal memo justifying the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki. On April 4, 2014, a U.S. district court dismissed a separate lawsuit challenging the U.S. government’s killing of al-Awlaki.


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